The implications for climate sensitivity of AR5 forcing and heat uptake estimates

Abstract

Energy budget estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) and transient climate response (TCR) are derived using the comprehensive 1750–2011 time series and the uncertainty ranges for forcing components provided in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Working Group I Report, along with its estimates of heat accumulation in the climate system. The resulting estimates are less dependent on global climate models and allow more realistically for forcing uncertainties than similar estimates based on forcings diagnosed from simulations by such models. Base and final periods are selected that have well matched volcanic activity and influence from internal variability. Using 1859–1882 for the base period and 1995–2011 for the final period, thus avoiding major volcanic activity, median estimates are derived for ECS of 1.64 K and for TCR of 1.33 K. ECS 17–83 and 5–95 % uncertainty ranges are 1.25–2.45 and 1.05–4.05 K; the corresponding TCR ranges are 1.05–1.80 and 0.90–2.50 K. Results using alternative well-matched base and final periods provide similar best estimates but give wider uncertainty ranges, principally reflecting smaller changes in average forcing. Uncertainty in aerosol forcing is the dominant contribution to the ECS and TCR uncertainty ranges.

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Fig. 1

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Acknowledgments

We thank Gregory Johnson for supplying the data underlying Box 3.1, Figure 1 of AR5 and Steven Mosher and two reviewers for helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Nicholas Lewis.

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Lewis, N., Curry, J.A. The implications for climate sensitivity of AR5 forcing and heat uptake estimates. Clim Dyn 45, 1009–1023 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00382-014-2342-y

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Keywords

  • Climate sensitivity
  • Transient climate response
  • Energy budget
  • AR5